The Ledes

Thursday, August 25, 2016.

New York Times: The town of "Amatrice[, Italy,] was the worst hit by [a 6.2 earth]quake [Wednesday], which also damaged surrounding towns. As of Thursday morning, the deaths totaled at least 247, officials said. The story discribes the heartbreaking search for victims." -- CW  

Read more here:" -- CW 
The Wires

The Ledes

Wednesday, August 24, 2016.

Washington Post: "Rescue workers scrambled to reach survivors buried under rubble in isolated towns and villages across central Italy on Wednesday after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake and a series of strong aftershocks struck the region overnight, collapsing homes, rattling buildings as far away as Rome and Venice and leaving an escalating toll of dead and injured." -- CW ...

... Washington Post Update: "At least 159 people died in the quake, a death toll that could jump as search crews rake through the rubble in cities, towns and villages­ across the regions of Lazio, Umbria and the Marches. Hundreds were injured and missing. Thousands were left homeless." -- CW 

Public Service Announcement

Washington Post: (August 2): "Federal health authorities on Monday urged pregnant women not to visit a South Florida neighborhood where new cases of the Zika virus have emerged, the first time officials have warned against travel to part of the continental United States due to the outbreak of an infectious disease.” -- CW

... Guardian: "The search for life outside our solar system has been brought to our cosmic doorstep with the discovery of an apparently rocky planet orbiting the nearest star to our sun. Thought to be at least 1.3 times the mass of the Earth, the planet lies within the so-called 'habitable zone' of the star Proxima Centauri, meaning that liquid water could potentially exist on the newly discovered world." -- CW 

Guardian: "A fisherman in the Philippines has kept what might be the largest natural pearl ever found hidden in his home for more than 10 years. The enormous pearl is 30cm wide (1ft), 67cm long (2.2ft) and weighs 34kg (75lb). If it is confirmed to have formed within a giant clam, as has been reported, it would likely be valued in excess of US$100m." CW: Looks like there will be a fight on this: when he moved house, the fisherman entrusted it to his aunt for safekeeping. "With his permission, she offered the pearl to the mayor, Lucilo R Bayon, to serve as new tourist attraction of city." -- CW 

"Giovanni della Robbia’s 'Resurrection of Christ,' made for an entrance gate to the villa of the Antinori family outside Florence." Brooklyn Museum photo. CLICK ON PHOTO TO SEE LARGER IMAGE.New York Times: "One of the most innovative art-as-advertising firms in late-15th- and early-16th-century Florence was the della Robbia workshop, a family concern that prospered for three long-lived generations. Its specialty was a brand of glazed terra-cotta sculpture that was physically durable, graphically strong and technologically inimitable. (The exact methods for producing it remain a mystery to this day.)... The Museum of Fine Arts [in Boston is mounting] “Della Robbia: Sculpting With Color in Renaissance Florence”..., a show of ideal size and scholarly weight that includes among 46 pieces one of the tenderest Renaissance sculptures in existence — 'The Visitation' by Luca della Robbia — on first-time American loan from its Tuscan church."

Michelle & Barack -- The Movie. Richard Brody of the New Yorker reviews “Southside with You,” "a drama about Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson’s first date." Brody calls the film "a fully realized, intricately imagined, warmhearted, sharp-witted, and perceptive drama, one that sticks close to its protagonists while resonating quietly but grandly with the sweep of a historical epic." -- CW 

Washington Post: "Requiring longer passwords, known as passphrases, usually 16 to 64 characters long, is increasingly seen as a potential escape route from our painful push toward logins that only a cryptographer could love."

The New York Times features photos of the exteriors of Bill & Hillary Clinton's residences over the years.

Brian Hickey of the Philly Voice: When Leroy Black died at age 55, he got two obituaries in the Press of Atlantic City: " In the first obit, his 'loving wife, Bearetta Harrison Black' gets top survivor billing. In the second, however, Bearetta is nowhere to be found, but 'his long-tome (sic) girlfriend, Princess Hall' appears in her place. A man answering the phone at Greenidge Funeral Homes told PhillyVoice that the obituaries were placed separately because 'the wife wanted it one way, and the girlfriend wanted it another way.'" ...

... CW: Kinda reminds me of the headstone a widow placed on her husband's grave in the Key West cemetery: "Harry, I Know Where You're Sleeping Tonight."

New York Times: "A surprisingly specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things has been generated by scientists who say that the likeness sheds considerable light on the mystery of how life first emerged on Earth. This venerable ancestor was a single-cell, bacterium-like organism. But it has a grand name, or at least an acronym. It is known as Luca, the Last Universal Common Ancestor, and is estimated to have lived some four billion years ago, when Earth was a mere 560 million years old."

Ian Crouch of the New Yorker: "For a few days, at least, [Stephen] Colbert abandoned the political equanimity that he’d adopted when he started his 'Late Night' job." BTW, here's Laura Benanti's segment:

Washington Post: "Benny" (for Ben Franklin), the mystery philanthropist of Salem, Oregon, has given away more than $55,000 in $100 bills, which s/he hides in odd places like "pockets of clothing, in diapers, in baby wipes and in candy." -- CW 

Jumping Jupiter! New York Times: "Ducking through intense belts of violent radiation as it skimmed over the clouds of Jupiter at 130,000 miles per hour, NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally clinched its spot on Monday in the orbit of the solar system’s largest planet. It took five years for Juno to travel this far on its $1.1 billion mission, and the moment was one that NASA scientists and space enthusiasts had eagerly — and anxiously — anticipated. At 11:53 p.m., Eastern time, a signal from the spacecraft announced the end of a 35-minute engine burn that left it in the grip of its desired orbit around Jupiter." -- CW ...

... Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post has more on the importance of the mission. CW: This, BTW, is another fine example of your government actually at work.

New York Times: "Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” signed off the air for good on Saturday evening [July 2], after 42 seasons, as millions of listeners, many in their cars on a holiday weekend, tuned in via public radio. With the exception of a telephone call from President Obama, the show, which was recorded Friday at the Hollywood Bowl in front of 18,000 people, ambled along the way it always has. There were pretty country-folk songs; an ad for Powdermilk Biscuits; a clippety-clop 'Lives of the Cowboys' skit; a heartfelt version of 'Every Time We Say Goodbye.'”

Washington Post: Gay Talese disowns his forthcoming book, 'The Voyeur’s Motel,' after he learns some of the incidents in the supposed true story are certainly fictional. The narrative “chronicles the bizarre story of Gerald Foos, who allegedly spied on guests at his Colorado motel from the late 1960s to the mid-1990s.... 'I should not have believed a word he said,' the 84-year-old author said after The Washington Post informed him of property records that showed Foos did not own the motel from 1980 to 1988.... The book, which will be published July 12, was excerpted in the New Yorker magazine in April. The story attracted widespread media attention and led producer-director Steven Spielberg to buy the movie rights to the book. Spielberg has lined up Sam Mendes...." ...

     ... Update. CW: For a day, I thought maybe Talese had developed a smidgen of ethics in his old age. Guess not. Here's the story now, from the WashPo: "Upon reflection, author Gay Talese says he’s disavowing his earlier disavowal of his own work."

Dan Shaw of New York writes a lovely remembrance of New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham.

Contact the Constant Weader

Click on this link to e-mail the Constant Weader.

Constant Comments

Anyone with a cheap computer can become a columnist or a pundit. -- Dennis Ryerson, Editor, Indianapolis Star

About Me: I have a cheap computer.
-- Constant Weader

Follow CONSTANTWEADER on Twitter... for breaking news. I update several times a day & tweet only the big deals.


The Commentariat March 31, 2014 

Noam Levey of the Los Angeles Times: " President Obama's healthcare law, despite a rocky rollout and determined opposition from critics, already has spurred the largest expansion in health coverage in America in half a century, national surveys and enrollment data show. As the law's initial enrollment period closes, at least 9.5 million previously uninsured people have gained coverage. Some have done so through marketplaces created by the law, some through other private insurance and others through Medicaid, which has expanded under the law in about half the states." ...

... Excellent Timing. Fredreka Schouten & Kelly Kennedy of USA Today: "The federal government's healthcare enrollment website -- -- went down briefly early Monday for extended maintenance as heavy traffic was building on the last day of open enrollment for 2014." CW: Really, could these programmers be any more clueless? Who scheduled a maintenance check on the last official day of sign-ups? ...

... Jeff Toobin of the New Yorker: "Republicans have mostly tolerated the portions of the [ACA] that benefit the middle class.... The real controversy, as with Medicaid five decades ago, centers on health care for the poor."

Justin Gillis of the New York Times: "Climate change is already having sweeping effects on every continent and throughout the world's oceans, scientists reported Monday, and they warned that the problem is likely to grow substantially worse unless greenhouse emissions are brought under control. The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes climate science, concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, and fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct."

Thomas Frank in Salon: Plutocracy is the norm. It will not dismantle itself. "That is our job."

Zombies! Paul Krugman: "... the belief that America suffers from a severe 'skills gap' is ... a prime example of a zombie idea -- an idea that should have been killed by evidence, but refuses to die.... If employers are really crying out for certain skills, they should be willing to offer higher wages to attract workers with those skills. In reality, however, it's very hard to find groups of workers getting big wage increases.... Influential people move in circles in which repeating the skills-gap story ... is a badge of seriousness, an assertion of tribal identity.... Moreover, by blaming workers for their own plight, the skills myth shifts attention away from the spectacle of soaring profits and bonuses even as employment and wages stagnate."

CW: Brad DeLong has an opinion piece in the New York Times. I don't understand a word of it. If anyone wants to translate, thank you very much. If economists & other experts want to have influence, they have to learn to write for people with a high-school education. See Krugman above.

Speaking of lying brainiacs, as we do in today's Comments section, Driftglass has a lovely review of the expert guests commissioned to Tell Lies Using Big Words on the Sunday shows. ...

... Charles Pierce does the same. Turns out one of the healthcare experts was Rick Santorum -- so no Big Words. Except maybe "abstinence."

Ayn Rand Lives! Jonathan Chait: The funniest thing happened on the way to Paul Ryan's plan to show the poor some love. He drafted the House budget, & it slashes the hell out of poverty programs. Again. But hey, he's thinking about thinking about maybe doing some anti-poverty thingee sometime.

** Jamelle Bouie in Slate: "Nearly twice as many whites as blacks favor the death penalty.... There's no separating capital punishment from its role, in part, as a tool of racial control.... Not only [were] whites immune to persuasion on the death penalty, but when researchers told them of the racial disparity -- that blacks faced unfair treatment -- many increased their support.... If you needed a one-word answer to why whites are so supportive of the death penalty, 'racism' isn't a bad choice."

N. Montenegro of the USCCB: "The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, joined by bishops on the border, will travel to Nogales, Arizona, March 30-April 1, 2014, to tour the U.S.-Mexico border and celebrate Mass on behalf of the close to 6,000 migrants who have died in the U.S. desert since 1998. The Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. on April 1, followed by a press conference at 10:30 a.m." Via Greg Sargent. ...

... As Sargent points out, the USCCB is stepping up pressure on the Obama administration: in this letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the Most Rev. Eusebio Elizondo, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, rips the administration's immigration enforcement policies. ...

... Jackie Calmes of the New York Times: "Across the country, immigrant-rights advocates report mounting disillusionment with both parties among Latinos, enough to threaten recent gains in voting participation that have reshaped politics to Democrats' advantage nationally, and in states like Colorado with significant Latino populations." CW: Another good reason for Republicans to stall/fight immigration reform.

Matthew Wald of the New York Times: "... both G.M. and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than previously acknowledged, ignored or dismissed warnings for more than a decade about a faulty ignition switch that, if bumped, could turn off, shutting the engine and disabling the air bags. General Motors has recalled nearly 2.6 million cars and has linked 13 deaths to the defect." ...

... Christopher Jensen & Matthew Wald of the New York Times: "... the revolving door between the [National Highway Transportation Safety Administration] and the automotive industry is once again coming under scrutiny as lawmakers investigate the decade-long failure by General Motors and safety regulators to act more aggressively on a defective ignition switch that G.M. has linked to 13 deaths. When David J. Friedman, acting administrator of the highway safety agency, testifies before House and Senate panels on Tuesday and Wednesday, a central question will be why the agency failed to push for a recall."

Carol Leonnig, et al., of the Washington Post: "Military officials said they are investigating the conduct of a U.S. Marine who was on assignment for President Obama's trip to the Netherlands last week, after witnesses said he was talking in detail about his job and passing around his government security badge during a night of drinking at a bar.... Circulating an official pass that would allow someone to gain entry to the summit would be a serious security breach...." CW: I can't help feeling President Obama's security detail isn't all that interested in protecting him.

Beyond the Beltway

Jim Miller of the Sacramento Bee: "The ... FBI affidavit against [California state Sen. Leland] Yee and more than 20 other defendants says the San Francisco Democrat's focus on retiring a $70,000 campaign debt from his unsuccessful 2011 mayor's race and raising money for his 2014 candidacy for secretary of state led him to accept bribes in return for official favors and arrange overseas weapons deals.... Money is a never-ending concern of politicians facing campaign costs that run into the six and seven figures." CW: Another good reason for campaign finance reform -- it will free up candidates from the need to run guns, consort with gangsters & take bribes.

The Rich Are Different from You & Me. Cris Barrish of the Delaware News Journal: "A Superior Court judge who sentenced a wealthy du Pont heir to probation for raping his 3-year-old daughter noted in her order that he 'will not fare well' in prison and needed treatment instead of time behind bars, court records show.... [A] The lawsuit filed by [du Pont heir Robert] Richards' ex-wife accuses him of admitting to sexually abusing his infant son between 2005 and 2007, the same period when he abused his daughter starting when she was 3." CW: See, if you're rich, abusing & raping infants & toddlers is an illness; if you're not rich, it is naturally a crime; if you're black, it's a death-penalty crime (see Jamelle Bouie above). The American justice system is not that difficult to understand.

News Ledes

AP: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rushed to the Middle East on Monday for a surprise visit aimed at rescuing his Mideast diplomatic efforts, as peace talks approached a critical make-or-break point. Kerry landed in Israel late Monday before heading to Jerusalem for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and then to the West Bank town of Ramallah to meet the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas." ...

... Guardian: "Russia flaunted its grip on Crimea on Monday, with the prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, flying in to the newly annexed territory for a cabinet meeting, cementing the sense of resignation in Kiev and the west that the seizure of the territory is irreversible. At the same time, Russian forces appeared to be pulling back from the border with eastern Ukraine. Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, said in a phone conversation with the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, that he had ordered a 'partial withdrawal' from the border, according to Berlin. The developments came after a four-hour meeting on Sunday between the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the US secretary of state, John Kerry, in which both sides put their visions for resolving the Ukraine crisis on the table. After the meeting in Paris, Lavrov said Ukraine should introduce federalisation of power."

AFP: "The United States criticized China as provocative Monday after its coast guard tried to block a Philippine vessel that was rotating troops in the tense South China Sea."

Seattle Times: The death toll from the Snohomish County mudslide climbed by three to 21 on Sunday, and searchers found four additional victims who are not part of that official count. The number of people still missing after nine days of searching stands at 30." ...

     ... Update: "The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit Monday afternoon released a list of 22 people missing in the Oso mudslide."


The Commentariat -- March 30, 2014

Steve Yaccino & Lizette Alvarez of the New York Times: "Pivotal swing states under Republican control are embracing significant new electoral restrictions on registering and voting that go beyond the voter identification requirements that have caused fierce partisan brawls. The bills, laws and administrative rules -- some of them tried before -- shake up fundamental components of state election systems, including the days and times polls are open and the locations where people vote. Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin this winter pushed through measures limiting the time polls are open, in particular cutting into weekend voting favored by low-income voters and blacks, who sometimes caravan from churches to polls on the Sunday before election." ...

... CW: Any Republican who gave a rat's ass about American "values" would be speaking out -- screaming -- against this systematic disenfranchisement of eligible voters. I have never held a high opinion of Republican motives or policies, but ten years ago you could not have convinced me that the party would stoop so low. These actions make Nixon's secret dirty tricks against political rivals & journalists look like small potatoes; these are open & notorious dirty tricks against vast swaths of defenseless American citizens. The Republican party has no shame. ...

... CW: And how about the indignity of not being able to eat, drink or breathe? Thanks to Barbarossa for the link to this excellent essay by Dan Kaufman on the Wisconsin legislature's (and Gov. Scott Walker's) approval of "the world's largest open-pit iron ore mine" to be blasted out of the hills & river valleys of Upstate Wisconsin, endangering not only the lifelines of the local Chippewa tribe but also Lake Superior (and probably a good portion of the continent's water supply). How could this happen? Mining executives and their "supporters have donated a total of $15 million to Governor Walker and Republican legislators, outspending the mine's opponents by more than 600 to 1."

** Bruce Ackerman in the Nw York Times: "Dignity is a Constitutional principle." CW: Ackerman doesn't go there, but he could just as well apply his "Constitutional principle" to the indignity of being a person of color or an elderly person or a student going to the polls & being denied her right to vote.

Andrew Roth & David Herszenhorn of the New York Times: "A day after the Russian leader Vladimir V. Putin reached out to President Obama to try to peacefully resolve the standoff over Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry scrambled his travel plans to meet with his Russian counterpart in Paris on Sunday, according to a State Department official."

Tim Egan of the New York Times: "'This was a completely unforeseen slide,' said John Pennington, the emergency manager of Snohomish County. 'It was considered very safe.' He said this on Monday, two days after the equivalent of three million dump truck loads of wet earth heaved down on the river near the tiny town of Oso. Unforeseen — except for 60 years' worth of warnings, most notably a report in 1999 that outlined 'the potential for a large catastrophic failure" on the very hillside that just suffered a large catastrophic failure.' ... Logging above the area of the current landslide appears to have gone beyond the legal limits, into the area that slid...."

Suzanne Goldenberg of the Guardian: "The White House on Friday opened the way to cutting emissions of methane from the oil and gas industry, saying it would study the magnitude of leaks of the powerful greenhouse gas. The announcement seemed designed to please the international community -- which is meeting in Yokohama to finalise a blockbuster climate report -- as well as environmental groups suing to force the Obama administration to regulate the oil and gas industry."

Bishop Gene Robinson in the Daily Beast: "... Christians complaining about 'discrimination' should realize what real victimization looks like."

Tim Townsend has a good piece in the Daily Beast on the first books of the Bible & the evolution of God's relationship to his flawed creation: mankind. The piece is ostensibly about the film "Noah," which premiered this week.

Presidential Election 2016

Anybody But Rand. Philip Rucker & Robert Costa of the Washington Post: "Many of the Republican Party's most powerful insiders and financiers have begun a behind-the-scenes campaign to draft former Florida governor Jeb Bush into the 2016 presidential race, courting him and his intimates and starting talks on fundraising strategy. Concerned that the George Washington Bridge traffic scandal has damaged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's political standing and alarmed by the steady rise of Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), prominent donors, conservative leaders and longtime operatives say they consider Bush the GOP's brightest hope to win back the White House." ...

... Yeah, and the Democrats can't think of anyone but Clinton. Both parties are stuck in a fairly ignominious past. What are people who care about the present & future to do?

Ken Vogel of Politico: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie apologized to Sheldon Adelson in a meeting Saturday for stepping on a fault line in Middle East politics during a speech he gave earlier in the day...." Christie used the term "occupied territories" to describe, um, the occupied territories. CW: This conjures for me the unpleasant image of a fat man, settling himself with difficulty into position to kiss the wrinkled ass of a tetchy oligarch. Politics is hard.

The Other Clinton

Josh Gerstein of Politico: "The Clinton Library took the wraps off another batch of White House documents Friday afternoon, offering new insights into how aides scrambled to address the Monica Lewinsky scandal, how the hot-button issue of race tied the White House staff up in knots and how former President Bill Clinton cast a wide net for advice in advance of his major speeches."

Odd News

Patrik Jonsson of the Christian Science Monitor: "Three days after an FBI agent was cleared of wrongdoing in the bizarre killing of an associate of slain Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the only surviving bombing suspect, alleged that the FBI attempted to recruit the elder Tsarnaev as an informant. In court filings on Friday, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense team said that new information suggests the FBI interviewed Tamerlan on several occasions before the attack, and even pressured him to surreptitiously report on the Chechen underworld."

News Ledes

New York Times: "As Secretary of State John Kerry began his meeting [in Paris] with his Russian counterpart on Sunday evening to seek a political solution to the tense standoff over Ukraine, the federalization of the country was likely to be at the core of the discussion." ...

... Guardian: "Russia on Sunday night repeated its demand that the US and its European partners accept its proposal that ethnic Russian regions of eastern and southern Ukraine be given extensive autonomous powers independent of Kiev as a condition for agreeing a diplomatic solution to the crisis over its annexation of Crimea." The Washington Post story is here. ...

... Reuters: " The United States on Sunday pledged $10 million to bolster border security in Moldova at a time when concerns are rising about divisions within the country over a trade deal with Europe and Russia's intervention in neighboring Ukraine. The pro-Western Moldavan government is pushing ahead with an EU trade deal by the summer despite the increasing debate on whether to integrate with Europe or stick with former Soviet master Russia."


Reuters: "U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has sent America's top general in Europe back early from a trip to Washington in what a spokesman on Sunday called a prudent step given Russia's 'lack of transparency' about troop movements across the border with Ukraine."

AP: "American mediators held urgent contacts with Israeli and Palestinian officials Sunday in hopes of salvaging troubled Mideast peace talks -- searching for a formula to bring the sides back together and extend the negotiations beyond a current late-April deadline." ...

... Guardian: "The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, on Sunday began his visit to Israel, at a time of heightened tensions with Israel's defence minister. Dempsey and Moshe Yaalon tried to portray business as usual, weeks after Yaalon angered US officials."

Guardian: "Egypt's presidential election will be held in late May, the electoral commission announced on Sunday, finally setting dates for the crucial vote widely expected to be won by the country's former military chief who ousted an elected president last year."

Seattle Times: " The number of people believed missing in last weekend's deadly mudslide has dropped dramatically from 90 to 30."


The Commentariat -- March 29, 2014

Reuters: "Russian president Vladimir Putin called Barack Obama on Friday to discuss a US diplomatic proposal for Ukraine and the US president told Putin that Russia must pull back its troops and not move deeper into Ukraine, the White House said. It was believed to have been the first direct conversation between Obama and Putin since the US and its European allies began imposing sanctions on Putin's inner circle and threatened to penalise key sectors of Russia's economy." ...

     ... ** Update: Peter Baker, et al., of the New York Times: "President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia reached out to President Obama on Friday to discuss ideas about how to peacefully resolve the international standoff over Ukraine, a surprise move by Moscow to pull back from the brink of an escalated confrontation that has put Europe and much of the world on edge. After weeks of provocative moves punctuated by a menacing buildup of troops on Ukraine's border, Mr. Putin's unexpected telephone call to Mr. Obama offered a hint of a possible settlement. The two leaders agreed to have their top diplomats meet to discuss concrete proposals for defusing the crisis that has generated the most serious clash between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War."

Scott Wilson of the Washington Post: "President Obama assured the Saudi king Friday that the United States is not pursuing naively a negotiated resolution to Iran's nuclear program, and he discussed ways of strengthening Syria's moderate rebel forces now being battered by extremist groups inside the movement and by the Syrian military. Obama and King Abdullah, along with senior advisers, spoke for two hours at the royal desert compound outside this desert capital, his last stop of a four-nation visit to Europe and the Middle East."

Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian: "With minimal reference to Edward Snowden..., General Keith Alexander ended his NSA directorship and his 39-year army career on Friday.... But Alexander's run at the NSA will be forever linked to the revelations of its global surveillance dragnets." ...

... Aw, shucks. Shouldn't Alexander's career be forever linked to this? --

Keith Alexander's Hollywood-designed Information Dominance Center, modelled after Star Trek's Starship Enterprise.

Vice President Biden delivered this week's presidential address:

Alec MacGillis of the New Republic: "So: right now, we have passed a law meant to expand coverage to all Americans, and yet it does not reach the poorest of our fellow citizens in nearly half the states in the country. That, on its face, is a major policy failure. No one really wanted to say this during the law's drafting, but its underlying goal was to get coverage to people in red states where there was no local political will to address the problem. CW: An excellent piece. Thanks to P. D. Pepe for the link.

Mary Flaherty & Jenna Johnson of the Washington Post: "Maryland officials are set to replace the state's online health-insurance exchange with technology from Connecticut's insurance marketplace..., an acknowledgment that a system that has cost at least $125.5 million is broken beyond repair."

Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post: "The past couple of weeks have marked a turning point in American ugliness as the mob has turned its full fury on first lady Michelle Obama. From criticism of her trip to China to a recent 'tell-all' by former White House assistant press secretary Reid Cherlin in the New Republic about Obama's allegedly tyrannical behavior, the gloves have been removed."

AP: "General Motors is boosting by 971,000 the number of small cars being recalled worldwide for a defective ignition switch, saying cars from the model years 2008-2011 may have gotten the part as a replacement.... Of the cars being added to the recall, 824,000 were sold in the U.S."

The Guardian: "David Cameron has hailed the first same-sex marriages in England and Wales as sending a 'powerful message' about equality in Britain." ...

... Griff Witte of the Washington Post: "With the stroke of midnight, same-sex couples were, for the first time, permitted to marry in England and Wales, and many did in middle-of-the-night celebrations. The weddings united same-sex partners who have for a decade been allowed to form civil partnerships, but until now have been prohibited from tying the knot. The change is largely being taken in stride, with little rancor from opponents and a sense from supporters that same-sex marriage was long overdue."

Jonathan Chait on the question of whether or not there is such a thing as "a culture of poverty."

New Jersey News

** Salvador Rizzo of the Star-Ledger: "Gov. Chris Christie announced today that David Samson, whose chairmanship of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has come under fire in recent months, has resigned. Samson, a close ally of Christie and a former attorney general of New Jersey, is reportedly under investigation by the U.S. Attorney of New Jersey in the face of accusations that his law firm, Wolff & Samson, had enriched itself by lobbying for companies with business before the Port Authority." The New York Times story, by Mark Santora, is here. ...

... As Rachel Maddow pointed out some while back, "the annual budget for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is bigger than the entire budgets of 9 states." (CW: I don't think that's 9 states combined.)

New York Times Editors: "The only thing wrong with the resignation announcement on Friday of David Samson, Gov. Chris Christie's top appointee to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, was that it took so long."

Jason Grant of the Star-Ledger: Michael Critchley, "the lawyer for Bridget Anne Kelly, fired back today against allegations that largely blamed her for the George Washington Bridge lane closings, blasting the report commissioned by Gov. Chris Christie's office as containing 'venomous, gratuitous, and inappropriate sexist remarks.'" The Bergen Record report, by Michael Phillis, is here.

Gail Collins seems a tad unimpressed with Christie's complete exoneration & his pomposity & self-righteousness.

Kate Dries of Jezebel: It's all Bridget Kelly's fault because she's an emotional, incompetent girl & Bill Stepien dumped her or something. Dries lays out the "evidence" of Kelly's instability that for some unknown reason caused her to think dumping on Fort Lee drivers would make everything all better. ...

... CW: C'mon, people. No wonder those high-priced lawyers can't figure out the motivation for the bridge closings: the person who caused them is a hysterical female prone to acting out in bizarre ways. It's impossible to tell what such whack-jobs will do for no apparent reason.

Alec MacGillis of the New Republic picks out & analyzes some tidbits from the report. Interesting.

Elsewhere Beyond the Beltway

Zack Ford of Think Progress: "Attorney General Eric Holder announced Friday that the 322 same-sex marriages that took place on Saturday in Michigan will be recognized by the federal government. A federal judge had ruled that Michigan's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional but had not stayed his ruling, so the marriages took place during the window when the amendment was unenforceable."

Josh Israel of Think Progress: "Once again, Ken Dentzer, Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s (R) handpicked Secretary of State, has unsuccessfully attempted to mount a massive purge of Florida';s voter rolls. And once again, he has been forced to abandon this effort due to his lack of an accurate list of who is and is not eligible to vote. In a memo, Dentzer told the state's local election supervisors that the purge would be postponed until 2015."

Patrick McGreevy of the Los Angeles Times: "Reeling from embarrassing bribery, corruption and voter fraud scandals, the [California] state Senate took the unprecedented action Friday of voting to suspend three Democratic lawmakers from office pending the resolution of criminal charges against them. The paid suspensions of Sens. Leland Yee, Ronald S. Calderon and Roderick Wright all but guarantee Democrats will not regain their supermajority in the Senate this session. And the controversies are expected to become anti-incumbent campaign fodder in other districts in this year's elections. The bipartisan 28-1 vote came two days after Yee was arrested in his hometown of San Francisco and charged by federal authorities with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and accepting campaign funds in exchange for political favors." ...

... Joe Coscarelli of New York: "After a federal indictment came down against him this week, [Leland] Yee instantly became one of the most insane political characters in recent memory, accused by the FBI of everything from taking donations in exchange for favors to palling around with a Chinatown gangster named Shrimp Boy and attempting to smuggle guns. Yee, a Democrat, just happens to be a vocal anti-gun and video-game-violence crusader."

News Ledes

Los Angeles Times: "More than 100 aftershocks have been reported since a magnitude 5.1 earthquake rattled Southern California on Friday night. Most of the aftershocks have been small, but some were strong enough to be felt in the areas around the epicenter in northwestern Orange County. Meanwhile, officials surveyed the damage, which for the most part was considered minor."

Los Angeles Times: "A Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft searching the South Indian Ocean reported Saturday seeing 'three suspicious objects' that could be debris from the long-missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. The announcement came as China stepped into a more proactive role in the frustrating 3-week-old search for the plane. Beijing has been publicly critical of Malaysia's efforts to find the Boeing 777, which disappeared March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Out of 227 passengers, 153 were Chinese."


The Commentariat -- March 28, 2014

Amanda Cochran of CBS "News": "President Obama, in an interview in Rome with 'CBS Evening News' anchor ... cott Pelley, said Russia must take steps now to reduce tensions over Ukraine":

** Paul Krugman: "... the demonization of anyone who talks about the dangers of concentrated wealth is based on a misreading of both the past and the present. Such talk isn't un-American; it's very much in the American tradition."

Tara Culp-Ressler of Think Progress: "On Thursday, President Obama announced on a call with volunteers that the number of Americans who have enrolled in health insurance plans under Obamacare has hit six million. With several days left to go before open enrollment ends on March 31, the administration has met its target. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that Obamacare enrollment would hit six million by the end of its enrollment period. Although the CBO initially projected a seven million enrollment figure, that number was revised down after technological issues plagued the insurance marketplaces' websites this past fall." ...

... See also this post by Marilyn Tavenner, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the person who oversaw the clusterfuck. ...

... Sheryl Gay Stolberg & Robert Pear of the New York Times: "The disparities [among state programs] reveal a stark truth about the Affordable Care Act: With the first open enrollment period set to end Monday, six months after its troubled online exchanges opened for business, the program widely known as Obamacare looks less like a sweeping federal overhaul than a collection of individual ventures playing out unevenly, state to state, in the laboratories of democracy." ...

... Sahil Kapur of TPM: "A few street blocks away from Supreme Court oral arguments Tuesday on the contraceptive mandate, an appeals court heard a separate case that poses a far greater threat to Obamacare and could cripple the law.... The case is about whether the Affordable Care Act permits the federally-run insurance exchange to provide subsidies to consumers.... Unlike the birth control challenge, which carries broad legal implications but implicates only a small portion of Obamacare, a loss for the administration in this case, Halbig v. Sebelius, would deal a fatal blow to Affordable Care Act. The federal exchange serves 36 states, and the millions of residents in those states would not be able to afford insurance without subsidies." ...

... ** Scott Lemieux in the American Prospect has more: "...above all the Republicans on the nation's second most important appellate court are committed to doing everything they can to ensure that the federal government can't work." ...

... Noah Feldman, in Bloomberg News, elaborates on some points made by the justices during oral arguments in the Hobby Lobby case. ...

... It's All a Koch Brothers Plot! Really. If you read Noah Feldman's argument (Feldman is a professor of Constitutional law), follow it up with this analysis by Bill Blum in Truthdig. Blum's piece is a two-pager. Read both pages. You can't understand the impact of Feldman's analysis (I doubt if he realizes it, either) without reading Blum. Many thanks to contributor Lisa for the link.

... Andrew Cohen in the Week: "We live in an age in which we have an activist conservative court eager to expand constitutional protection for some at the expense of others, and willing to do so by upending old precedents." Cohen notes the contrast between Sandra Day O'Connor & Sam Alito, who replaced her "and whose disdain for the health care law, and for women's rights in general, go back a long way."

Kathleen Hunter of Bloomberg News: "The U.S. Senate voted to advance legislation restoring benefits for the long-term unemployed that the Obama administration has sought to revive since they expired late last year. By a vote of 65-34, with 60 required for approval, the Senate agreed to move toward taking up the measure, which is the product of a bipartisan agreement struck earlier this month by Rhode Island Democrat Jack Reed, Nevada Republican Dean Heller and eight other senators." CW: No telling what the House will do.

Mike Lillis of the Hill: "Passing comprehensive immigration reform is more important than Democrats' success at the polls in November, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday."

Charles Pierce: "The party of Christian values and self-reliance and personal responsibility gathered its elite [including Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.)] to pay homage to creepy old gambling magnate Sheldon Adelson...." Here's the underlying New York Times story, by Nicholas Confessore & Eric Lipton.

New Jersey News

"I Can't Recall." Michael Barbaro of the New York Times: "The Port Authority official [David Wildstein] who directed the shutdown of lanes to the George Washington Bridge said that he informed Gov. Chris Christie about it at a Sept. 11 memorial while the lanes were closed, according to an internal review that lawyers for the governor released on Thursday.... But the report said that Mr. Christie did not recall Mr. Wildstein's raising the topic during their interaction and, in a sweeping claim of vindication, found no evidence that he -- or any current members of his staff -- was involved in or aware of the scheme.... Mr. Christie has said previously that he did not know of the lane closings before or while they were occurring...."

... CW: This is very similar to Steve Martin's advice on how to become a millionaire & never pay taxes:

First, get a million dollars. Now, you say, 'Steve, what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, "You have never paid taxes"?' Two simple words: 'I forgot!'

Here's Randy Mastro, the lead attorney on the "investigation," at a presser yesterday:

The Star-Ledger report, by Ted Sherman, is here.

Christopher Baxter, of the Star-Ledger has excerpts of Christie's report here. The page also has the full report.

"Irate Friends See Sexism in Report." Kate Zernicke & David Chen of the New York Times: "The report moves aggressively to consolidate blame on Ms. Kelly. In one passing example, the report asserts that she canceled meetings with Mayor Steven Fulop of Jersey City, who had declined to endorse Mr. Christie's re-election. In fact, documents have established that those meetings were canceled not by Ms. Kelly but individually by the officials who had been scheduled to meet with the mayor." ...

... CW: The report also casts Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer as a dingbat who made "demonstrably false" & "unbelieveable" accusations because she was "confused" and her "subjective impressions" did not match "objective reality."

Michael Linhorst of the Bergen Record: "Democrats investigating the George Washington Bridge controversy are panning today's report released by a lawyer hired by the Christie administration" saying it raises new questions.

If you would like to hear Chris Christie tell Diane Sawyer that he is as innocent as a newborn babe & he's suffered terribly over this, yadayadayada, you can do so here.

I think they love me in Iowa, too, Diane. I've been there a lot. I think they love me there, too. -- Chris Christie

Recent polls in Iowa have found 57 percent of Iowa adults disapprove of the way he has handled the [George Washington Bridge lane-closings] situation. Another poll found 41 percent thought he would not make a good president, compared to 36 percent who thought the opposite. -- Mario Trujillo of the Hill

A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll in February this year showed that 57 percent of Iowa adults disapproved of the way Christie has handled the bridge controversy and 25 percent approved. Among Republicans, 47 percent disapproved and 34 percent approve. And in December, in an Iowa Poll that tested 10 Republicans considered likely 2016 suspects, Christie tied for fifth most popular.... -- Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register

The Star-Ledger Editors call the Christie-Mastro report "a million-dollar whitewash."

New York Times Editors: "We can now add this expensive whitewash to all the other evidence of trouble in Mr. Christie's administration."

Elsewhere Beyond the Beltway

Will Weissert of the AP: "A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld Texas' tough abortion restrictions that have forced the closure of about 20 clinics around the state, saying the new rules don't jeopardize women's health. A panel of judges at the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court judge who said the rules violate the U.S. Constitution and serve no medical purpose.... Justice Stephen Breyer called the issue of the law's constitutionality a difficult question. 'It is a question, I believe, that at least four members of this court will wish to consider irrespective of the Fifth Circuit's ultimate decision,' Breyer wrote in a brief opinion that was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor."

Congressional Race

I have always believed in our founders' idea of a citizen legislature. I had a career before politics and always planned to have one after. The genius of our institutions is they are not dependent on the individual temporary occupants privileged to serve. -- Rep. Mike Rogers, re: his retirement

Ed O'Keefe of the Washington Post: "Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, plans to retire from Congress after his current term to host a national radio show syndicated by Cumulus Media, he announced Friday." ...

... CW: Assuming Rogers is sincere, I think he's quite right in his reasoning. And becoming a radio jock is not as horrible as becoming a lobbyist. ...

... Tim Alberta of the National Journal: "Although hawkish on national security matters, Rogers is viewed as one of the more moderate voices in his conference -- which has helped him earn seven terms representing an evolving congressional district that was carried by President Obama in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 after redistricting. Rogers's retirement is likely to spawn a free-for-all of candidates scrambling to submit election paperwork before the April 22 filing deadline."

News Lede

New York Times: "Walmart, Gap and Children's Place this week became the first three United States companies to contribute toward a $40 million fund for victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh last April, in which more than 1,100 workers died."